A fourth quarter come back wasn’t enough to secure a win for the Adelaide Thunderbirds, falling eleven goals short of the Queensland Firebirds in Brisbane tonight.
The Thunderbirds’ first quarter was patchy, with brilliant passages of play followed by moments of stilted and uncertain movement. There was plenty of physicality in the Thunderbirds attack end, making clear space hard to find. The Firebirds defenders were all over anything in the air and play flowed better for the Thunderbirds as Glasgow started to work through to the front space. Chelsea Pitman drove hard through the attack and her quick release of the ball set up the rest of her team mates.
The Firebirds ability to score quickly was on show from the first whistle, with their experienced connections shining through. The Thunderbirds remained in the contest through some outstanding defensive work from Fiona Themann and Ama Agbeze, who picked up three intercepts between them for the quarter and forced a number of turn overs from the Firebirds attack.
END Q1 FIR 13 – THU 10
A heavy head knock to Jade Clarke minutes into the second quarter saw Gia Abernethy enter the game at centre, with her patience in attack allowing Pitman to find the circle edge.
Thunderbirds were getting turn overs in defence through Themann and Ingles, who was particularly disruptive with one intercept and four deflections. But this hard work was often difficult to convert as they struggled to transition through the midcourt and ball was then wasted in attack.
As Queensland GK Clemesha started to get on top of Glasgow, a tactical time out with five minutes remaining saw Karyn Bailey move into the GS position. Bailey looked controlled and unflustered, offering a strong option under the post and an outlet for Bell to dish off to.
END Q2 FIR 25 – THU 17
There were no changes from either side to start the quarter, however a few minutes in, the Thunderbirds used their time out to re-introduce Glasgow back into the game at GA to replace Bell. While there were scrappy passages, the line-up seemed to find a structure that worked as the quarter progressed.
Up the other end, the Firebirds attack line were gaining momentum, missing just one goal for the quarter and sharing the attacking load across their team. While she may have been outmatched for height, Agbeze remained in the contest. Finishing the quarter with an intercept and two deflections, she forced the Firebirds to often rethink their options and create opportunities for those around her.
END Q3 FIR 43 – THU 30
There were a number of changes for the Thunderbirds for the final quarter, with Jade Clarke returning to the court at C and Malysha Kelly on at GK in an attempt to counter the height of Aiken at GS. Kelly had an impact, challenging the aerial ball and ready to clean up the tips, finishing with two gains, an intercept and a deflection.
The Thunderbirds attack play at their best when they release the ball quickly, and with Bailey presenting strongly under the post, the Thunderbirds seemed to find a clearer path to goal than they had throughout the game. The experience of Bailey shone in this quarter, coming out of the circle when needed and setting up strong, clear screens for Glasgow to work off.
Chelsea Pitman was again a work horse in attack and despite winning the final quarter by two, it was too little too late and the Firebirds secured the win in front of their passionate home crowd.
FINAL SCORE FIR 59 – THU 48
MVP Kate Shimmin
Adelaide Thunderbirds starting seven
GS Sasha Glasgow
GA Erin Bell
WA Chelsea Pitman
C Jade Clarke
WD Renae Ingles
GD Fiona Themann
GK Ama Agbeze
Sasha Glasgow 15/22 (68%)
Karyn Bailey 25/27 (93%)
Erin Bell 8/10 (80%)
Queensland Firebirds starting seven
GS Romelda Aiken
GA Gretel Tippett
WA Caitlyn Nevins
C Erin Burger
WD Gabi Simpson
GD Kate Shimmin
GK Laura Clemesha
Romelda Aiken 39/47 (83%)
Gretel Tippett 20/24 (83%)